Tag Archives: intentions


21 Jan

I am not a fan of making resolutions at New Year’s.  Maybe it is because I think that the new year should either be the solstice, or my birthday. Or maybe it is because it just seems like kind of a fake holiday – I mean, who says that it should be a 365 day year?  What marks December 31st as the end of the year?  Or maybe it is just because I am not a joiner – so I’ve never liked doing what everyone else is doing.

Or maybe I was just hung over and didn’t feel like reflecting – since it would surely be all about not being as unhealthy as I felt in that moment.

In either case, I didn’t take time to reflect or make resolutions.  Not that there isn’t plenty I could start doing differently, but instead, I decided to wait until my birthday to start thinking about where I have been and where I am going.

In reflecting on my year – thinking about where I have come from – I started re-read the post I wrote on  my 37th birthday.  I could feel the joy in my words, the magic of adventure, the wonder of possibility.  I remember that sunrise – seeing fitz roy – being in the Andes, in Patagonia.  fulfill my dreams.  checking off the bucket list.  happy 37.

fitz roy

Over the course of this past year I have:

  • Traveled to 4 different countries
  • Took a risk by moving to a city I never imagined living in
  • Climbed a few mountains
  • Landed a pretty great job that fulfills my goals to help make the world a better place
  • Spent time with old friends, made a few new ones
  • Laughed, a lot (and cried some too)

And a whole lot more.  It was a year of transitions (but more coming on that soon in another post).

So, here I am.  38.  A year later, living life in one place, more than a backpack to carry my stuff, more than 2 shirts to choose from.  More stuff, more responsibilities, more…everything.  At the same time – less.  Less adventure, less freedom, less beauty and wonder in the every day.

welcoming 38 in with mostly open arms
(even if they are crossed…..)

Last year, I started a practice of writing the 37, or 38 as the case is this year, things that I am grateful for.  Last year, the list was easy to write — the beauty in front of me, the joy surrounding me, the freedom I felt.

This year…..  it feels a bit more of a stretch.  The world doesn’t feel as open and joyous as it did while on the road.  Not that there isn’t plenty for me to be grateful for, it just takes a bit more searching.  I’m not checking off the bucket-list (Shit, living in NYC wasn’t even on my bucket-list! ), I am not surrounded by beautiful mountains and sitting in plazas eating popcorn and talking to locals.

Instead, I am rushing from place to place, riding the subway, working long hours, and not getting the kind of time I use to have to sit and reflect and think about where I’ve been and where I’m going.  I am sitting in a hotel room, preparing for a training.  I am riding the bus, working on a curriculum unit.  I am sitting in front of my computer, answering emails.

And so — my goal for this year is to slow down.  To remember to hold onto that freedom I felt while traveling.  To remember to find what I am grateful for.  To not get sucked up into the world of working and dedicating everything to my work (again), even if it is important, good work.  To hold onto the confidence and assuredness I gained from being on the road.

So, I am starting that practice by writing my list of 38 things I am grateful for.  I am up to #22 – taking the time each day in the next week to reflect, think and push myself to be in the moment.  Because, no matter what or where I am, there’s so much to be grateful for.

Inspiration vs. Living the Dream

10 Jun

At the tail end of my adventures, I felt pretty sure of what I wanted.  I wanted to keep trekking, keep traveling, keep alive the feeling in me — the feeling of adventure and freedom and quenching my wanderlust.  I thought of moving to India, traveling more in SE Asia, climbing more mountains.  I, the ever-planner, started envisioning another life for myself.  One that did not include, for example, a full-time job or the security I once thought that I needed.  And even if I was not totally sure of the work that I was planning on doing, I knew what I would not be doing.  I knew I couldn’t teach again (not never, just not now).  I knew I would not be going back to Renaissance, as much as I loved the place.  I knew I would not be going back to my old life.

And so, I arrived back in the US and attended the Expeditionary Learning National Conference, where I was slated to present a master class for other teachers from around the country.

Now, a quick word about EL schools.  For those of you who are not familiar, Expeditionary Learning Schools is a national model of school reform that has roots in Outward Bound.  It is constructivist education at its best – making learning come alive for students, but with a strong focus on success, equality for all, and high quality.  It is a model of schools that fits perfectly with my professional goals and my personal values.  But, as in all good and important work, it is a lot of effort and time to do it well.

So — while traveling, even though I knew that I wanted to keep going, I also knew that I would eventually return home to Expeditionary Learning.  I knew that I would return to work in one of the schools or within the network.  But just not yet….

And, so that was my mindset when I went to Denver, to the National Conference.  A mix of coming home to family with a longing to keep my feet out in the world….

And as the conference continued, I became more and more confused.  Confused because I because I got more and more inspired.  I was inspired by the educators who surrounded me.  Inspired by the work of students I saw.  Inspired by master classes led by my colleagues from around the country.  But the icing on the cake was being inspired by the last speaker of the conference, a state senator from Colorado who used to be a school leader at an Expeditionary Learning School in Denver, Colorado.

Mike Johnston spoke about how public education should be the last generation of the civil rights movement.  That we should be taking kids from where they start in kindergarten and 13 years later,  we should be offering them a level and fair playing field.  That we should be promising them equality, by changing schools.  And that our goal, as educators, is to create children that feel that this is their world to love and to change.  That they are confident that they can love and change the world.

Yeah, I was done for….

Yes, sign me up for the good fight.  Yes, sign me up to change schools in this country.  Yes, sign me up for equality and justice for all.

Wait a second….  did I just say this country?  That wasn’t part of the plans….

So….  now what?  how do I balance the inspiration and the passion with living-the-dream?  Living the life I want to live that involves mountains and street food and learning spanish and freedom — versus doing work I deeply care about?

Me with two of my students at the 3rd Renaissance graduation — 3rd time that 100% of the graduating seniors have been accepted to college.

That is the conundrum…..

Reflecting back, looking forward

1 Jan

Happy new year friends.

Nha Trang beach, where I brought in the new year

I have never been a huge fan of new year’s — seeing as it seems so artificial (why is this the new year?  being an east coaster, in the dead of winter, it is hard to feel like it is a new year) and it always carries such high expectations, which never seem to pan out exactly the way you hope.  Though, I do like the idea of making resolutions — or at least reflecting on your life in the past year and looking forward.

For me, this past year has been tremendous – from making the leap to buying my ticket, to planning this journey to setting into motion all the small things that got me here.  I am a planner – I love the work that leads up to the big event – so this year was great for me.  And then — I left and started the journey.  There were some hard moments, for sure, but thinking back on the past four months, I marvel on my growth, my perspective and how grateful I am.

reclining buddha at the pagoda in Nha Trang

I knew it would be good.  But — was it going to be one of those type 2 fun things?  You know, the things that are fun after the fact?  Or would it actually be fun in the moment.  I guess I have to say that there is both types of fun.  But – what has surprised me – is just how good it is.  Just how much I don’t want it to end.  Just how much I want to keep journeying and seeing and experiencing and meeting and …. living.

So – this past year has been about opening up – embracing the world and all of its amazingness.  And its messiness.  And its craziness.

So – this upcoming year?

Well, more of the same, right?  More living and experiencing.  More rambling and exploring, climbing and peak bagging, breathing deep and sitting quietly (thanks Ed Abbey).  But, to tell you the truth friends, i am feeling a little sad.  Because I know it will come to an end.  That this year it ends.  That my journey will end and I go back to my life before.  But, it won’t be the same, will it?  My world is so much bigger now.

boats in the harbor outside of Nha Trang

Last year, a friend suggested making some intentions for the new year around 3 different focuses (foci?) – personal, professional and health (or something like that).  Following an early morning run on the beach, I sat with coffee and thought about my intentions for this upcoming year.  I reflected on where I have traveled, and thought ahead to where I am going.  I definitely do not have it all figured out, but I also know that I have much more clarity than ever before.

Thank you friends, for being with me on this journey, for giving me courage when I was missing it, for celebrating my successes and reaching out when I was lonely.  I am so excited to share the next 4 and a half or 5 months with you (see — i am sad.  that seems so short!).  I am so grateful for you all.

How did you bring in your new year?

Buddha, overlooking the city

So why go?

30 May

Why leave a job I love, salary, benefits, kids and co-workers that challenge me and keep me laughing?  Why leave a community of friends and a living space that I adore?  Why leave the safety of what I know and feel comfortable with?

I have never been one to choose the easiest path.  When I was a senior in high school I moved to France to be an exchange student with only about two years of weak high school French under my belt.  Twice I have moved across country to places where I knew only one or two people.  And most recently, I moved to western Massachusetts to help open a school, not knowing anyone but the person who hired me.

But this feels different.  Friends love to make fun of me and my endless list making.  If nothing else, I am practical and pragmatic.  I love making lists.  I love planning for the future.  But now, all I know is that I will be traveling for 9 months.  I know there is no way to plan out all of the trip.  I cannot foresee every change that will come my way, every bump in the road.  Or what exciting adventures I will find out there!

This adventure is going to be a challenge.  I anticipate that I will see and learn and grow in endless, countless ways.  But really…. so why go?  Here are my reasons – both big and small.

1.  because it’s there.  Like Mallory, I want to go for the sake of going – for the adventure.  I want to see what’s out there.  I want to climb and trek and hike all over the world.

2.  I want to learn spanish.

3.  I love my job, love my work – but there is a whole big world out there – ready for me.  I don’t want to be that disgruntled teacher, going through the motions year after year.  I hope to return after this year fresh and ready to jump back into the hard work of teaching.

4.  There is so much cool stuff out there — I need to see it!  Being a biology teacher, I am continuously in awe of the world and natural wonders.  I cannot wait to see the Himalayas, the Andes, the beaches of Vietnam, Thai temples and Patagonia.